Global trends in medical education accreditation

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Background: Accreditation systems in medical education aim to assure various stakeholders that graduates are ready to further their training or begin practice. The purpose of this paper is to explore the current state of medical education accreditation around the world and describe the incidence and variability of these accreditation agencies worldwide. This paper explores trends in agency age, organization, and scope according to both World Bank region and income group. Methods: To find information on accreditation agencies, we searched multiple online accreditation and quality assurance databases as well as the University of Michigan Online Library and the Google search engine. All included agencies were recorded on a spreadsheet along with date of formation or first accreditation activity, name changes, scope, level of government independence, accessibility and type of accreditation standards, and status of WFME recognition. Comparisons by country region and income classification were made based on the World Bank’s lists for fiscal year 2021. Results: As of August 2020, there were 3,323 operating medical schools located in 186 countries or territories listed in the World Directory of Medical Schools. Ninety-two (49%) of these countries currently have access to undergraduate accreditation that uses medical-specific standards. Sixty-four percent (n = 38) of high-income countries have medical-specific accreditation available to their medical schools, compared to only 20% (n = 6) of low-income countries. The majority of World Bank regions experienced the greatest increase in medical education accreditation agency establishment since the year 2000. Conclusions: Most smaller countries in Europe, South America, and the Pacific only have access to general undergraduate accreditation, and many countries in Africa have no accreditation available. In countries where medical education accreditation exists, the scope and organization of the agencies varies considerably. Regional cooperation and international agencies seem to be a growing trend. The data described in our study can serve as an important resource for further investigations on the effectiveness of accreditation activities worldwide. Our research also highlights regions and countries that may need focused accreditation development support.




Bedoll, D., van Zanten, M., & McKinley, D. (2021). Global trends in medical education accreditation. Human Resources for Health, 19(1).

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